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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

Together Forever!

Christmas lights twinkled from lofty rafters, and the fragrance of frankincense lingered in the air. Our toes were frozen and our insides quivered, and yet the warmth of song filled the frigid barn.

Elias was my student this past semester, and his parents are missionaries, waiting out their Covid-furlough at a fairytale farm on the eastern border of central Minnesota. Sprawling acres of fresh-fallen snow, clear skies filled with a riot of heavenly host, and stone-walled barns make the perfect setting for shepherds and swaddled babe. A mellow donkey, squat and furry, munched its hay near the holy family—central players in the Olson’s live nativity experience.

“We get to spend all of eternity together!” Elias’ mom, Tahran, said this to my husband, whom she’d just met. As soon as she said it I wished I’d thought to bid farewell to my class in a similar manner. All of eternity together… The day before I had ended my semester as substitute teacher at the Montessori school. Loading my car prior to dismissal, hoping to beat the blizzard threatening my homebound commute. But not wanting to leave until the last student had been hugged and Merry Christmas’d. Avoiding good-bye.

And we sang, too. Several Christmas hymns. (I’d had to differentiate between hymns and carols for our devotional singing.)

Joy to the world! The Lord is come

Let earth receive her King!

Let every heart prepare Him room

And heaven and nature sing

Hark! The herald angels sing

"Glory to the newborn King"

Peace on earth and mercy mild

God and sinners reconciled

O come, let us adore Him

O come, let us adore Him

O come, let us adore Him

Christ the Lord

It strikes me now, as it did that night in the barn, how reconciliation can come through our singing. Especially at Christmas.

I’d done my best throughout our “last” day to lay hands on each shoulder, addressing every precious child eye-to-eye, giving a blessing.

God has made you a leader…

He has given you compassion…

A brilliant memory…

So creative…

A tenderest heart…

Each of these kids, precious to me, and priceless to their Father.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. Romans 12:6. Thatcher’s mama had printed these words for her photo card greeting. And it’s exactly what we’d been talking about these past thirteen weeks. Every child, and every grown-up, too, has God-given brilliance. Particular gifts for doing certain things well.

“I hope God lets me see what you do with that genius mind in the years to come.” I looked up at Joshua’s little-boy face in his adult-sized body, as I received a hug from his dearest mom. Sometimes friendship just FEELS eternal.

It was Joshua who chose our last devotional reading, a single verse—John 3:16. For God so loved…

A perfect verse for Christmas and every other season. God loved, and so He gave. He gave us His Son. He gave us Jesus. The newborn King.

One last time we sat by the atrium altar, and I gave my students a final charge.


Just love. Love Jesus and love each other. Love unselfishly, unconditionally. Humbly. You can change the world with this love.

Driving home on slushy highways, my thoughts lingered on students and hymns and Christmas and love. It felt like an ending, but a beginning, too.

And now I know why.

Love is eternal and eternity is forever and there’s really no such thing as good-bye...

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